Wednesday, 23 May 2018

LCD Soundsystem 'American Dream' Haiku Review

The Times once famously reviewed Queen’s ‘Tie your Mother down’ with the quote “sheer bloody poetry”. We were so taken with this idea we decided a more direct link between music and poetry was needed. Hence our returning feature, ‘Haiku Review’. 17 syllables of summary applied to some of the worlds best new music…
Love is a splendid thing indeed. When you are young you live for those intoxicating moments where you are buffeted helplessly, yet willingly, by the turbulent waters of pure emotion. As you get older you begin to understand that the most important thing isn’t necessarily how you found love but rather how it ends.
LCD Soundsystem certainly swept me off my feet all those years ago but it was the manner of our conscious uncoupling that left the sweetest taste. After a decade of obsession we parted as dear friends, a final rendezvous at Alexandra Palace with several thousand other lovers in this polyamourous affair. It was like Casablanca, Rick in his trench coat, top lip quivering, a plane to New York revving on the runway. Perfect really.
I struggled on with nothing more than vintage wine and memories until the heart stopping news came in that LCD were back, back, back! Older, wiser, and with a distinguished wisp of grey, their return triggered a wave of hot flushes that embarrassed as much as invigorated a fan of my age.
American Dream is a pitch-perfect flashback that hints at the future as much as it references the past. Bold and yet understated, it’s another charming New York conversation to rattle around your head. James Murphy is at his laconic best, speaking with gentle confidence throughout, repping middle age anxiety with the openness of a hormone-ravaged teenager.
The music is honed, post punk, post rave, post feeling like you have to fit into a genre at all. There is an undercurrent of Berlin-era Bowie, an influence best captured not by sounding similar but by remaining resolute in the ambition of sounding only like yourself. When the tropes of indie rock threaten to make American Dream a little too comfortable, rubbery analogue fingers jab at your ribs cajoling you onto the dancefloor where it’s impossible to look too self-assured (given your age).
OK, maybe it’s not quite perfect but what is? Especially the second time around. If you ever felt anything for LCD Soundsystem then this offering will not disappoint, James Murphy appears to have done everything but lose his edge. We are older and wiser, the times may have changed but the sex is still great and I think this time should be forever please. Lets swap vials of blood and get a tattoo together.
LCD Soundsystem’s American Dream – a haiku review:
Well hello stranger!
Gee, fancy meeting you here?
*Clings tightly to leg*
Eamon Murtagh

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Albums of 2015 - A year late... oops

I had a baby and lost my ability to write and publish things. So here is the unedited notes for last years (2015) album of the year list. As its SO LATE I haven't bothered to make it pretty - its exactly as it was in my notes folder.

10 Fōllakzoid
There's something comforting about something done simply and well. There's a saying in Italian cooking about how you only ever really need three ingredients in any dish, that way you leave room on the pallet to tastes everything individually and in combination with the other ingredients. Fōllakzoid are the carrots, tomatoes and onion of modern day drone rock. They avoid the temptation to become ever more intricate and rely on the bare essentials, space, repetition and style.

9 Snow Ghosts
This album seems to have slipped through the cracks somewhat - often the fate of albums released early in the year. Lost at sea it may be but there is treasure to be found in its creaking timbres. Having expanded from a two piece to a trio Snow Ghosts have added a plethora of strings to their bow this year. I've been entranced by their uber-moody soundscapes for a few years now no was very pleased to see their track "xxxxx" from their first lp a small murmeration has been picked up and for the new Transformers film. I these Grimm storytellers get the fairytale ending global exposure can bring.

8 King Midas sound & fennesz
Fennesz is a master of industrial ambience, his Black Sea album provides the kind of solace normally only afforded to someone recovering from post traumatic stress. It's not an easy listening chill out record but it's all the more gratifying for its ability grind away the rough edges of upset. King Midas Sound are the vocal offshoot of Kevin Martins notorious Bug project. Best known for earthquake inducing raga bass it's a curious pairing on face value but Christian Fennesz knows how to hold your mental gaze in perfect stillness while Martin and his cohorts apply narrative and rhythm to this impossibly deep pool of electronica.

Sometimes two irregular shapes just fit together beautifully. The FFS project is just such a jigsaw fluke. Franz Ferdinand have often flattered to deceive my ears with their art school smuggery but I've always kept one eyebrow raised in interest at their sub-Televison staccato stabbing. Sparks on the other hand are one of my obsessive bands, I have musical lost weekends with sparks when for no discernible reason I find myself compulsively drawn to the operatic kaleidoscope. When under the spell no other music will do, however like rich food I entirely understand why I can have it everyday and why some people are physically repulsed by their overwhelming sound. But these two flavours compliment each other perfectly, like Brie and chilli sauce. FFS may be an unsearchable band name but that's fitting for two oddball projects that you would never have expected to compliment each other so well.

6 Fortet - Morning
One of the reasons I love walking into a record shop is there is always the possibility that you will exit with something much better than what you went in for. This isn't down to an algorhythm leeching your personal information with every clock, it's down to the fact you know the people working in a real record shop are all looking for that perfect beat whether you're there or not. I had grown a bit tired of Fourtet and had no designs on the latest release but on hearing this mesmeric Indian vocal placed so delicately over a ripple of subtle house rhythms I was instantly hooked. I don't know if you could claim this is the most important release of the year but it's definitely one of the ones I've listened to the most.

5 Loop
Robert Hampsons loop project has a very special place in my heart/minds eye. They provided the soundtrack to my late teenage years. Add the lines from the review about ticket numbers and wood in shjips. Only when you fully submit to a Loop record will you feel it's full genius. Then and only then. For best results apply headphones and disengage with the universe. Understand you aren't going to partake in some snazzy sing along and point your blinkers at the endless inky black void that provides the gulf between perception and reality. Then Strap your ass in, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

4 Sleaford Mods Key markets
The most vital band in the UK, your protestations will only make them stronger. I love the way Sleaford Mods make people angry, you know you have something when people feel compelled to either love or loathe. There's no industry campaign pushing these lads forward. There's no chasing airplay, sponsorship deals or cosy retail tie ins.

3 Kendrick lamar
This is a deceptively complicated piece of work. In many ways it's closer to jazz than hip hop. Contributions from Flying Lotus ensure that the marrowbone of hip hops repeating breakbeat is acknowledged if not adhered to. There is a narrative structure to this lp that few rappers have matched. The fact Lamar manages to convey episodes of serious self doubt and reflection whilst maintaining the poise and control an MC needs to confidently guide the listener through 70 minutes of prose is impressive. The upshot is an album that revels in genuine emotion whilst still retaining the kind of swagger that allows Kendrick Lamar to drop the effortless funk of King Kunta when required. Often (especially in recent years) the big players in hip hop become so far removed from real life that they appear cartoon like, Kendrick Lamar couldn't really claim to be an ordinary kid anymore but he retains his humanity and that gives this wildly adventurous album real gravitas.

2 Floating Points - Elaenia
Every floating points release seems to elevate their status higher and higher in my estimations, there's a unique organic characteristic to every release even the minimal record store day special captured a unique perspective on the scene. No after thoughts with FPs. At times the evolution is so insistent that Floating Points seem closer to Krautrock legends Can than the usual electronica suspects. Certainly when the rug is pulled from underneath you during "xxxx" it feels like the last bad acid before punk just wore off. Progressive it may be but it is also lean and spacious. What Floating Points promise in ambition they deliver in spades. Deliberate, definite and yet constantly evolving Elaenia is worthy of anyone's attention.

1 Kamasi Washington - The Epic
Few descriptions could convey greater trepidation to my ears than 'Triple jazz funk concept album'. I mean that just sounds horrific doesn't it? There is an extra chill as you process the numbers ... triple threat... Like a genetically modified coffee table monster ready to chew you up and spit out a guardian weekend supplement. Oh gosh has it come to this? Well yes and no. It really is a shameless jazz funk odessey played out of three full length LPs but there isn't a hint of dinner party about it. Every time you settle back into the comfortable tropes of jazz it swirls around you and lifts your feet off the bottom of the pool. This is an album with depth, breadth and poise. It's at once familiar and confrontational. It is in fact a stone cold classic that not only rises like cream to the top of the modern scene but also transcends the genre adding choral scale and an itchy musical ambition that crosses over when it wants to and drags you in when it doesn't. It won't work for everyone but it will change the lives of those who accept it unconditionally.

Single of the year
Taxie - Rock don't stop
This cheeky, cheery little record has brightened up nearly every set I've played this year. It's a 2 minute wonder I can't see myself tiring of for some time.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Duran Duran - Live at Wilton Music Hall

Fashion and music blow a heady bellow when you are young. As you age, you shape your cultural ship by tying down those items deemed essential and ruthlessly cutting adrift the ballast of past embarrassments. Some of my worst burgundy-clad tweenage excesses came about through my time aboard Duran Duran’s impossible yacht. But things change fast when you’re a teenager. I didn’t join the ‘Union of the Snake’ and by 14 or so they didn’t even look vaguely ‘wild’ to me. They were always there though, part of my peripheral vision. There was the Bond thing and the odd notorious return but I had put away childish things and boy band stock fell heavily in the ’90s.
Then on a wet Thursday in East London, through a completely random collision of social media, location and luck, I found myself in a beautifully restored theatre about the size of a postage stamp: Wilton Music Hall. My crinkled old bedroom poster had come to life and I was about to watch Duran Duran play their most intimate gig in 35 years.
Organised as part of the Back to the Bars campaign (which puts big bands back into tiny venues for one night only), tickets were sold as part of a phone-based raffle (winners had their names drawn after making a donation to War Child). The result was a mix of the hardcore fan family and relative chancers like myself. It felt like being the random guest at a really brilliant wedding reception, one where the band promised to play ’80s hits until everyone was singing.
There was a definite relish for playing a show this size, and Simon Le Bon remarked that he knew a lot of first names in the audience – ‘Alison’ in the front row had apparently been shouting things at him for 30 years. The lack of intro music was greeted with relaxed good humour and that set the tone for a refreshing reappraisal of my boyhood heroes.
John Taylor’s bass gave energy and groove to every track. The sparkling purple drum kit of Roger Taylor provided all the snappy bite required in such a tight space. Nick Rhodes stood almost motionless at the back like one of Kraftwerk’s more glamourous relations. His synth work provided space and texture to the music with some timeless arpeggios locking down ‘Careless Memory’ and ‘Girls On Film’ in particular. Dom Brown (the replacement for Andy Taylor who quit the band in 2006) slotted into place with understated ease but looked disconcertingly like Prince Harry ‘rocking out’. Despite both being in the band and looking like royalty, Brown was asked for his ticket by overenthusiastic door staff when he arrived. ‘I’m in the band’ he said politely, perhaps not for the first time.
This was a crowd-pleasing greatest hits show; even the mid-’90s funk I had previously shunned sounded serious and powerful in this intimate venue. What I’d forgotten was that unlike the boy bands that followed, Duran Duran were an actual band. They have done their 10,000 hours and respect is due. Classic songs like ‘Rio’, ‘Is There Something I Should Know?’, ‘Save A Prayer’ and countless more were delivered with style and aplomb.
Near the end, an otherwise jovial Simon Le Bon reminded us that the concert was in aid of War Child and that no child has ever been anything other than caught up in a war. In that brief moment of sobriety the band delivered an emotional rendition of ‘Ordinary World’, which confirmed to me that I must raid their back catalogue before my cynicism returns.
I can’t pretend there weren’t moments when the sheen of nostalgia wore a little thin. Their cover of ‘White Lines (Don’t Do It)’, whilst tremendous fun for the band, took all that I love about rap and hip-hop and flushed it down the toilet like a dope dealer caught up in an unexpected drug bust. Despite this it retained a sliver of authenticity by replacing the flow and groove of the original with blue-eyed guitar riffs and the kind of overconfident stand-up-and-rant-at-you energy that perfectly encapsulates why people shouldn’t do cocaine.
Later that night I ended up looking back on old photographs of my 1983 attempt at a wedge haircut – I did grimace and cringe a little but I was also reminded that it was a very real thing that happened. Duran Duran weren’t just some Svengali’s plaything, they were five lads from Birmingham who had seen the future.
I await their new LP with the renewed interest of a thirteen-year-old boy in an ill-fitting granddad shirt.
Eamon Murtagh (@eops)
Special thanks to Jon M Howells and @O2music for their random act of kindness in giving me a ticket. Donate to War Child here:

Haiku Review: Snow Ghosts - A Wrecking

The Times once famously reviewed Queen’s ‘Tie your Mother down’ with the quote “sheer bloody poetry”. We were so taken with this idea we decided a more direct link between music and poetry was needed. Hence our new feature, ‘Haiku Review’. 17 syllables of summary applied to some of the worlds best new music…
In terms of narrative, the puddle-deep waters of bass-led dance music have traditionally remained rather calm and unrippled. A few well-chosen Blade Runner samples may hint at deeper content but that’s about as far as it goes. Snow Ghosts however are about to write the book. Packaged like a Dungeons & Dragonsexpansion pack, A Wrecking comes complete with a map promising adventure. There is something wonderful going on here: story-telling. Despite the electronic undercurrent this is gothic folk music for the modern age.
There was a time when cautionary tales were vital evolutionary tools that passed down from lips to ears. These forewarnings were grim in every sense. They spoke of life, death, love and loss with unflinching duty. At some point in the recent past our collective need for cautionary tales has diminished. A sanitised Red Riding Hood now makes friends with the wolf, Hansel & Gretel simply stumble upon a misguided bake off and the little piggy who ‘had none’ now claims he just wasn’t hungry. In folk music parlance, ‘Mad Tom of Bedlam’ became ‘that bloke from Mumford & Sons’.
Snow Ghosts are not afraid of the dark. Their music is haunting and their delivery is serious and deliberate. It may seem a little prog rock to dive this deep into the ‘concept LP’ in 2015 but there is a lot of ordinary music out there, treat yourself to a little stereo adventure for once. The melodies are rich and strong, the atmosphere expansive and the siren-like delivery is as enchanting as the legend suggests.
Snow Ghosts – A Wrecking
A mariners tale

Not an albatross in sight
Dive in, drift away

Monday, 29 December 2014

eops 2014 Music List

My New Years Resolution this year was simple; ‘Say YES more.’

 It’s been an amazing year for the use of those three letters. I said yes to:
  1. A regular DJ night at The Miller (Second Friday of every month playing SOUL/FUNK/DISCO).
  2. Having a baby. Finally and most momentously, I became a Father! This has been a game changer. 
 Pic: © Amy Murrell
The final part of that diptych is why this review didn’t make it out in time for Xmas and was written almost entirely left-handed at 4am. No regrets, 2014 was a good year; I knew Grange Hill were talking shit – just say YES! This years list got me thinking about the difference between artists making their debut and those returning under the weight of expectation. The debut is the culmination of years of forethought while the second album is often a more pressurised affair written on the hoof or worse still given far too much time to ferment. I’m looking at you Stone Roses. That said let’s jump straight in with some #HaikuReview

Dig the new breed …

East India Youth were my ‘one to watch’ tip for last year and I have been delighted to see ‘Total Strife Forever’ go on to become a huge success.

East India Youth!
Five syllables already?
Mercury Prize nom.

Ross Tones has been building up a phenomenal back catalogue over the last couple of years including the remarkable Snow Ghosts project. 2014 however saw the Throwing Snow album finally drift into view; ‘Mosaic’ is a must hear.

Mosaics in sound.
Smashed it like a cracked mirror.
Snowballs target brain.

A less lauded electronic gem is the Matom album ‘Love Mistakes’. Forged by dance-floor specialists Matt Edwards (Radioslave) and Thomas Gandey (Cagedbaby) this album allows them to explore the outer reaches of deep house.

Matt and Tom's album
Jazzy house down the K-hole
Worth finding this gem

That rather rambling preamble has soothed my conscious slightly in what has been a difficult selection process.

eops Best of 2014

10 Lone – Reality Testing

The reverberations of the underground often take a long time to filter through to the mainstream, the most exciting work in any genre happens on a small scale. These embryonic ideas are so easily lost that we rely heavily on tastemaker labels that support the scene in the early days. 30 years ago the remarkable R&S label were helping nurture rave and techno from an anonymous flat in Belgium. They helped the likes of Aphex Twin, Joey Beltram and CJ Bolland to bring techno to the masses and R&S have never stopped looking for the next wave. Recently the label has championed the live sounds of Egyptian Hip Hop and Lone (whilst still remaining true to their roots with the brutal techno of Blawan). The Lone LP consolidates everything the label has stood for over three decades. 'Reality testing' pulls together the strands of techno, ambient, drum & bass and trip hop and weaves a plush cloak of electronica.

9 Caribou – Our Love

Dan Snaith is one of those ‘newcomers’ with 32 releases already under his belt. It is fair to say that most people only really became aware of his immense talent after 2010s breakthrough Caribou LP ‘Swim’. The key to this success lay in a deep understanding of both song writing and dance music aesthetics, that allowed him to create a show stopping live set to promote a heart-stopping album. Sensibly Mr Snaith didn’t succumb to the clamour for ‘more of the same double quick’, instead he took his time to refresh the batteries and allow for his Caribou project to rediscover its muse. In the intervening years a number of side projects (including the remarkable Daphni LP ‘Jiaolong’) bought him the breathing space required to come back triumphant. ‘Our Love’ is a warm, colourful, chill out room made homely with scatter cushions of soft synth pads and oddly familiar melodic motifs. I often look for a darker edge to music but in this case it’s a relief to find an album that makes you feel secure, comfortable and happy.

8 FKA Twigs – LP1

Young Turks is another remarkable label that has a habit of breaking the golden rule of Ghostbusting by constantly crossing the streams. Over the last couple of years they have brought us SBTRKT, Sampha, Koreless and now FKA Twigs. As I may have mentioned before I am not a bumper or a grinder but when the legacy of great soul music shines through the baby oil I am happy to slide inside the overheated crib. FKA Twigs were marketed with the ‘new face of R&B’ tag but I don’t think that’s really where this LP is coming from. Tahliah Barnett grew up in Gloucestershire listening to Siouxsie & the Banshees, she wasn't hot housed in a gospel church by way of the Mickey Mouse Club with Xtina. This album is a minimal framework barely supporting the lilting confessionals contained in the lyrics. It’s so sparse and arty it doesn’t so much bling as shimmer a bit. The entire LP is sung in a register so high that it would make Janet Kaye blush (sadly for me this makes a hearty sing a long almost impossible), but it really works. This is a fresh innovative debut and we should think less about which box to put it in and let it carve out it's own niche. It is certainly sharp enough.

7 Theo Parrish – American Intelligence

When asked about the secret of making great jazz records Miles Davis famously said “It’s not about the notes you play, it’s about the notes you don’t play.” This is as true for house music as it is for jazz. As America binges on the tasteless junk food of EDM ('Electronic Dance Music' for those of you who weren't aware of how 'the machine' has finally sold electronic music back to the states), one of the giants of Detroit house returns with another spacious LP. It's a timely reminder to these day-glo Johnny-come-lately types of where the music came from and how vital and soulful it once was. The true spirit of house is about stripping away the unnecessary rather than adding evermore flamboyant decorations to the Christmas tree of excess. Theo Parrish edits the legacy of black music so respectfully that this supposedly electronic affair swims with life and vibrancy. From the initial skittish repetition of 'Footwork' to the sprawling acid miasma of ‘Helmut Lampshade', American Intelligence lives up to it's name. This is no cold techno artefact, it's a heartfelt testimony warmed by valves, physical formats and a real live human soul.

6 The Bug – Angels and Devils

With the exception of the heaviest end of heavy metal, artists that trade on power often find the graduation from singles to albums a difficult transition. Finding the staying power to 'shock and awe' their audience a second time is often a step too far. This is especially true in the world of dance music. How many hardcore techno artists cut a serious album that amounts to more than a selection of individual tracks? Fewer still managed more than one. The problem being that the shock of the new has to retain it's ability to shock whilst the elongated medium of the LP means the listener must remain engaged despite not being off their box in a sweaty club. You 'listen' to an album, that's why it still the pinnacle of musical expression - the cracks will show if it's not up to par. The Bug are neither metal nor techno and despite their dub roots they don't really fit into the world of offbeat skanking either. Their first LP London Zoo annihilated all before it kicking the rosey ass of it's dubstep, grime and bashment contemporaries with a frankly ludicrous show of power. The question is 'how do you follow that?' Those ravers who felt the brunt of the bass led assault through tunes like 'Skeng' 'Poison dart' and 'Gun disease' called for more of the same but simply repeating the same tricks would surely be doomed to backfire. For Kevin Martin to grow he needed to show depth in his songwriting whilst still throwing a meaty bone to the hardcore. The answer is beautifully rendered in 'Angels and Devils', one record steeped in a thick skunk-drenched fog of reflection and the other directing a deliberate but controlled rage at the listener. I think the balance to this LP is just about perfect, the audio vandal has proved he can build and destroy.

5 D’Angelo – Black Messiah

Upping the ante set by Isaac Hayes with his 'Black Moses' album, D'Angelo has 'rushed out' this (decade in the making) release in response to Ferguson. There's something powerful going on here, fifty years on from the civil rights movement and very little seems to have changed. This includes music’s unerring ability to focus minds and offer solace in the face of adversity. Black Messiah like it's biblical predecessor aims to empower the listener through music, the title is intended to implore every listener to bring about their own salvation rather than flatter the ego of its creator. ‘Black Messiah’ is a poignant and powerful piece of work. There’s a closeness to the sound and every track weaves together a close knit atmosphere as claustrophobic as it is liberating. It may not really lay claim to pushing the boundaries of R&B music further (there is nothing ‘new’ here) but it can stake a claim to be a future soul classic. Indeed 'classic' would be the watchword here as D'Angelo channels 'If I was your girlfriend'/'Dorothy Parker’ era Prince and baboon eating dog era Sly Stone perfectly. Even the production harks back to look forward; an all analogue recording committed to hundreds of tape reels that had to be painstakingly stitched together by hand without the benefit of cut n paste - no shortcuts were taken in this 12 year labour of love and it shows. If you have been wondering who stole the soul during the shiny bump & grind era you will be pleased to know it was D'Angelo and at last, in the face of adversity, he has decided to put it back.

4 Liars – Mess

Very few artists have the balls to switch styles with every LP (Bowie being the master, Radiohead deserving huge props for obfuscating the path to REM like ubiquity by dropping ‘Kid A’ onto a deeply confused marketplace after ‘OK Computer’), but Liars have the courage of their convictions. Their discography is willfully fickle and manages to take numerous left turns without ever doubling back on itself. Their early work was characterised by searing punk-funk and white-hot mix downs that could melt your headphones into earwax. As they grew in stature albums like ‘Sisterworld’ saw them add control and sophistication to their runaway train of ideas but it seems they couldn't wait to derail themselves. ‘WIXIW’ saw them ditch the guitars entirely and jump headfirst into blackest ever black electronica. It was a brave and artistically satisfying take on indie synth pop. What is marvelous about ‘Mess’ is that it evolves seamlessly from the pumping euro of ‘Brats’ (which closed out ‘WIXIW’) into a post Ibiza new-wave LP. Mess is big, brash and dribbling with the cumulative effects of the designer drugs era.

3 The War on Drugs – Lost in the dream

Despite falling head over heals in love with former ‘Warren Drugs’ cohort Kurt Vile, I initially took against this thick slice of Americana. My eventual acceptance is testament to the type of slow burn song writing that grows like a weed between the cracks in your prejudice against the legacy of Springsteen, Tom Petty and all the other ‘America with a capital A’ archetypes. Maybe you are one of the millions that accept these artists willingly into your life but many people find the blue-collar rock and rollers too detached from their European surroundings. I've often found myself claiming Springsteen 'Isn't as bad as you think, you have to look at his legacy in the round...' etc. In future I won't bother, I'll just play them The War On Drugs repeatedly for a couple of days until the legacy seeps through the pores and the cynicism wanes. It's plainly a great record.

Future Islands – Singles

Fame can be a fickle master; you dream about it, work for it, if you are both lucky and talented you might actually achieve it and when you do it might not necessarily feel like the thing you set out for. Future Islands have dutifully done the rounds honing their sound gig by gig, these ‘newcomers’ actually already have 4 albums behind them. I consider myself lucky to have (and I don't want to sound all hipster about this) heard them before THAT YouTube clip. The David Letterman appearance had the bizarre effect of catapulting this fairly odd electro pop band from South Carolina via Baltimore into 3 million homes overnight. It’s sad then that when people talk about Future Islands its the awkward but sincere ‘Dad dancing’ that grabs the attention, there's barely a peep about their excellent and original music. I hope this fame doesn't lumber them with a terrible dancing albatross because 'Singles', when separated from the furor, is a synth-pop gem. At Field Day this year there was a tangible buzz of excitement in the air when they performed and the show proved to be hair-raisingly compelling. So please, next time you think of that growling Marlon Brando look-a-like doing an impression of a speed skater on goofballs make sure you look past the spectacle and actually take time to listen. 

Sleaford Mods – Divide and Exit

Every now and then a record captures the zeitgeist of what it is to be alive at a certain point in our culture (and I'm not talking about the vapid coffee table funk of Daft Punk and Todd Terje). I mean the type of pithy existential translation brought to us by artists working at (or indeed long term unemployed at), the coalface of society. The type of star crossed expressionism that allows one human experience to be accurately conveyed to a multitude of people, clearing the air and defining the times. It's the sort of condensed humanity that in 1980 allowed John Cooper Clarke to scribe 'Keith Joseph smiles and a baby dies, in a box on Beasley street'. You can find it in the work of The Smiths, the darker lyrics of Madness, the multicultural graffiti of The Specials in 'Ghost town' and even briefly in 'A certain romance' as captured by Alex Turner before the Arctic Monkeys were sluiced out of the arse-hole of the music industry by gout inducing success. Sleaford Mods are the latest 'overnight success' to grow for years unnoticed like a mushroom in the dark recesses of the UK's sink estates before being plucked from obscurity because the time was ripe. ‘Divide and Exit’ is probably the least musical of all the albums on this list but for all the bare boned practicality provided by beat-maker Andrew Fearn it is also the most urgent, engaging and vital thing I've heard in years. Punk is not dead, it's got a copy of garage band and a twitter account. Sleaford Mods are easily the least pretentious band I’ve ever seen. Fearn doesn’t even pretend to do anything other than hit ‘play’ on his computer and attend to social media. Jason Williamson the foul-mouthed lyricist is equally down to earth. 

Instead of boorishly bragging to his poverty stricken fans about drinking Crystal in a diamond studded tracksuit like Jay-Z and his fantasist contemporaries, Williamson politely tweets thanks to his supporters for helping him to afford some new patio doors this summer. That's the real hip-hop right there. His vicious social commentary is thrown over skeletal backbeats that make up for their unedited simplicity by retaining a sense of inspirational urgency. His acerbic wit is filthy and laugh out loud funny, but don't confuse the Mods with the mic-checking comedians of Goldie Looking Chain and their ilk - here the punch lines are used to pry open subjects before gouging out the flesh of the matter and swallowing it whole. This is both serious and seriously funny invective.

There are no American accents either; this is pure UK spit being flobbed in your face. Sleaford Mods use their local dialect to raise one jampandy to the sky and salute. Pithy narratives describe the indignity of being a ‘Jobseeker’, the pointlessness of a ‘McFlurry’, or the pent up rage of finding yourself working for a right cunt. Oh yeah, 'Divide and Exit' swears like a fucking sailor, get used to it you titrifle. That's how people talk. It provides a momentary glimpse at the life you hope you'll never know, I advise you to stare at it till your eyes water. In a blink it will be gone but Jason Williamson’s poetry will always remain true.


Great start to the new year as The Sleaford Mods approve! 
I was very pleased to see this tweet - I think this means the score is now officially: 
NME 0 - eops 1 

Single of the year

Just listen to that bassline. I could mooch about all day to that. I played it on repeat for about a week in the summer. Also cool girls being cool video.

Re-issue of the year

A lovely and luxurious package backed up with lost tracks and studio sessions. What a record.

Compilation of the year

Because DISCO.

Gig of the year

It was simply gushing with love. Read my review. Beware gush.

And some slight returns …

The Horrors returned with a toothless offering ‘Luminous’, after reinventing gothic indie with ‘Primary Colours’ and ‘Skying’ it was a crying shame for them to return to B-Movie status.

Black hearted Horrors?
Gothic rock? Over polished.
Glow in the dark synths.

After the joy that was the first SBTRKT album the follow up seemed thin gruel indeed. My favourite review site The Quietus mauled it seemingly on the grounds that people employed in the creative industries don’t have the right to express their feelings. Bit harsh I thought.

Toothless post dubstep?
Savaged by The Quietus,
Not THAT bad really.

And last of the stragglers is Metronomy who had the unenviable task of following up the pop perfection of ‘The English Riviera’. Many people expressed disappointment with ‘Love Letters’ but I think it suffered by association and would have delighted the first time listener.

What do we want eh?
More of the same or not?
Cake twice then, dig in.

Any other business